The Comptroller and Auditor General on Wednesday tabled a report in Parliament about capital acquisitions in the Indian Air Force, including the Rafale fighter jet deal between India and France. The report said the deal signed in 2016 by the Narendra Modi government to buy 36 fighter jets from France was 2.86% cheaper than the offer made to the previous government in 2007, PTI reported.
The report said that compared to the deal negotiated by the Congress-led government for 126 jets, the one finalised by the Modi government managed to save 17.08% for the India-specific enhancements in the Rafale jets. The CAG report also said the final deal was 6.54% costlier in terms of engineering support package and performance-based logistics.
The document said a Ministry of Defence team had in 2015 recommended the scrapping of the earlier deal to buy 126 Rafale jets, ANI reported. The report was tabled in the Rajya Sabha and was followed by protests by the Opposition MPs. The House was adjourned sine die soon after as it was the last day of the Budget Session.
On Sunday, the Congress had urged Comptroller and Auditor General Rajiv Mehrishi to recuse himself from auditing the Rafale fighter jet deal with France, alleging a conflict of interest. Mehrishi was the finance secretary when the deal was signed and was part of the negotiations.
The Congress said the CAG is constitutionally and statutorily obliged to undertake a forensic audit of all defence contracts, including the Rafale deal. However, before the report was tabled, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the report is of no value, as it has been prepared by a person who was a negotiator of the deal.
The Congress has accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of compromising “national interest” and “national security” in the purchase of the 36 jets. The party has said the final deal was overpriced, while the government has claimed it got a superior agreement.
Earlier on Wednesday, a report in The Hindu claimed that the Rafale deal signed by the Modi government was not “on better terms” compared to the offer negotiated by the Congress-led government. The newspaper quoted from a dissent note written by three senior defence ministry officials who were the domain experts on the seven-member Indian negotiating team.
The India-France joint statement had in April 2015 claimed that the terms for 36 flyaway aircraft agreed to by the Modi government would be better than the offer made by Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the jets, for 126 aircraft, to the Congress-led government.
Union minister Arun Jaitley tweeted that the “lies” of the Opposition parties had been exposed by the report. “Satyameva Jayate – the truth shall prevail,” he said. “The lies of the ‘mahajhootbandhan’ stand exposed by the CAG report. How does democracy punish those who consistently lied to the nation? It cannot be that the Supreme Court is wrong, the CAG is wrong and only the dynast [Rahul Gandhi] is right.”